Portland Timbers: Glorious Failure in New York

Diego Chará watches a Red Bulls player go by with the ball.

Harrison, N.J. – The tumultuous Timbers season rolled on Sunday as the wayward squad blew a two-goal lead in New York to the MLS powerhouse New York Red Bulls. Portland put together possibly their best twenty minutes of the season to start the game, but once again found themselves on the same side of a dreadful story.

It must be said that the Red Bulls are no slouch and will once again be competing for the MLS Cup so the loss comes as no surprise. What was unexpected was the play of Sal Zizzo and the Timbers’ counter attack. Zizzo was all over the field, creating chances for his teammates and rushing back to stop the powerful New York attack. His play was enough to get even the most heavy-hearted Timbers fan to change their tune on the season, but it still wasn’t enough.

The Red Bulls were able to break the 2-2 draw in the 83rd minute and take the three points on the day. Saying that this is a familiar story is becoming redundant for the Timbers faithful and one has to question what is to be done about the club as the losses seem to be getting more gutting-wrenching as the season continues.

Diego Chará watches a Red Bulls player go by with the ball.

Despite what is going to be a forgotten season in the Rose City, there were some positives to spotlight on Sunday. The Timbers incendiary energy in the first thirty minutes was impressive and left fans saying “Where has this been all season?” It is no shock that the Timbers dropped the game today; they have still yet to win a game on the road. However had the Timbers played with this kind of passion that they showcased in the first half hour Sunday, their road record would be much different. This Portland team was able to get only their second goal in the first 15 minutes of a match this year against New York and it came from an unlikely source.

Bright Dike, who got his first start of the season on Sunday, did not wait long to show Gavin Wilkinson that he deserves a spot in the starting XI. In the eighth minute Zizzo, who was playing like a man possessed and found space on the pitch all day, broke away from his defender. After racing into the box he fired a low cross across goal to Dike who deposited it in the back of the net for his first regular season goal in the MLS. The Timbers would have to wait another 23 minutes for their next goal but the pace of play was astounding. Franck Songo’o, Darlington Nagbe and Zizzo had a flow about their play that has been seldom seen this year. It was this trio that shredded the Red Bull defense and doubled the Timbers lead in the 31st.

The counter attack started with Zizzo rushing back to help the Portland defense and coming away with the ball. He quickly found Songo’o streaking down the wing and hit him perfectly in stride. The Cameroonian quickly maneuvered through the New York backline and laid the ball off for Zizzo on a dead sprint. Zizzo pushed a through ball into perfect position for Nagbe who finessed it around New York keeper Bill Gaudette. It was a dream start for a Portland side desperate for any success. Like any hapless club though, it was all downhill starting in the 43rd minute of the match.

Red Bulls quickly made a change after they fell behind by multiple games and they brought on a familiar face to Timbers fans. Kenny Cooper didn’t get the start against his old club but it didn’t take him long to bring his old nickname (lets just say the initials are KFC and might be similar to what Red Sox fans refer to Bucky Dent as) about as he headed a cross past Donovan Ricketts for his 14th goal of the season. Within two minutes New York had equalized the game in controversy.

After Red Bull midfielder, Dax McCarthy, lined a shot into the Timbers’ box, referee Jason Anno blew his whistle and rewarded a penalty to New York. Before anyone could react to the whistle, Gary Cahill ripped a shot past Ricketts and tied the game. The referee let the goal stand despite blowing his whistle, which always marks a dead ball. Timbers players and fans alike cried out in protest but the play stood. Portland had just turned a dream start into a nightmare two minutes and it was only halftime.

The second half was much less exciting than the explosive first half but did include a frightful injury to Kosuke Kimura and a backbreaking game winner from Red Bulls’ defender Heath Pearce. Kimura had to be taken off on a stretcher in the 59th minute after getting elbowed by Cahill and no word on his condition have surfaced yet.

The Timbers saved their most devastating play for the 83rd when Pearce headed a Jan Gunnar Solli cross past Ricketts. Portland could not equalize despite being given five minutes of stoppage time and dropped their fifth match of the last seven games.

Gavin Wilkinson shows his frustration in the loss to New York.

The loss moves the Timbers record to 0-5-2 since the Gavin Wilkinson takeover and 5-16-3 overall. Nothing can be said that hasn’t already been said over this disastrous seven game stretch. It is obvious that the Wilkinson era needs to end, not just due to the miserable record but the inexplicable front office moves as well.

The only way GW could’ve made it worse on himself was by trading fan favorites and he did exactly that.

He brought in homegrown Danny Mwanga earlier this season but it doesn’t seem that the former Beaver has a place on Wilkinson’s pitch. He recently traded Troy Perkins to Montreal in a move that literally no one saw coming.

One of the few bright spots in this gloomy season was Perkins’ leadership and unflinching play. The occasional captains play has already been missed as the Timbers have allowed 5 goals in two matches without him. It seems everyone but Merritt Paulson has recognized the problem but unfortunately for the Timbers Army what the owner says goes.

The Timbers will once again hit the pitch on Friday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Cascadian rivalry will once again be showcased in the MLS and is an important one because the Timbers only chance at hardware this year might be the Cascadian Cup.

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